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Little Action Steps That Help You Speak Big-Time

When you’re preparing the checklist for the speech you’re giving, you’ll naturally include the big, important items.There are also several seemingly minor things that will make a big impact in how your message is received, and you shouldn’t overlook any of them.

Decades ago, a hit song carried the title “Little Things Mean a Lot.” Roberto De Vicenzo would agree with that concept. At the 1968 Masters Golf Tournament, he shot the same 72 hole score that was posted by Bob Goalby. Spectators expected a playoff to determine the winner. However, De Vicenzo failed to check his scorecard carefully, and signed for an incorrect score-a higher number-on the seventeenth hole. By the rules, he had to accept the score he authorized. So Goalby became the surprise winner.

Chances are, you have experienced the critical significance of little things when you give a speech. So consider these seemingly minor steps you can take that will make a major difference in your presentation’s impact:

Avoid drinking cold water before or during your speech. Cold water constricts the vocal chords. Your vocal pitch could change slightly, and you might sense unusual tightness in your throat. Bring along a bottle of water that has been out of your refrigerator for several hours, reaching room temperature. Your throat will welcome the soothing liquid, without unwelcome results.

Request a table to put your notes and materials on, replacing the standard podium. Immediately, you will appear more approachable. Also, because you won’t have the podium to lean on, you will increase your dynamism. Audience members will get an enlarged view of you and your gestures.

For any typed notes you use-and they should be minimal-print much larger point size. Go as high as 18 point if you need to. Rather than looking clumsy as you search for the next section in your speech, you will move along seamlessly.

Research the accuracy of every name or place you will mention. Use local sources to familiarize you with unusual pronunciations. Case in point: A speaker assumed that Houston, a county in central Georgia, would sound just like the Texas city with that name. The assumption backfired, because the Georgia county name-originally spelled Houstoun, the namesake of a Georgia Governor-sounds like How-ston. Only after the speech did the speaker understand why his mispronunciation prompted guffaws from his audience.

Check your wardrobe thoroughly. Consider the sales representative who was driving toward a presentation to the largest potential client he had ever faced. Before he entered the building, he noticed a horrendous mistake. He was wearing one brown shoe and one black one. Fortunately, he found a nearby shoe store and corrected his mishap that could have made him appear careless, even incompetent.

Brush your teeth. Yes, you can excuse yourself tactfully as your part on the program approaches, and use a brush and toothpaste to sharpen your appearance. I still remember a veteran speaker who asked her husband, “How do you think my speech went at that luncheon?” His reply: “It would have gone much better if you had gotten the spinach off your teeth first.” Besides removing unsightly food particles, you’ll start your speech with a fresh, clean feeling-well worth two or three minutes in a nearby rest room.

Bring a surplus of everything. Have far more information than you can cover, more handouts than you will need, more business cards than the number that matches the expected crowd, more gifts for the meeting planner and her staff, and more products than you might generally sell afterward in the exhibit hall. There’s always the chance the occasion will require more items than you anticipated. Suppose two or three participants ask, “Could you give me five of your business cards, so I can share them with colleagues who might want your services?” How much more organized you will appear when you have extras on hand, rather than muttering apologetically, “Gosh, I just ran out of those. I’ll mail you some next week.” Sadly, next week the impact will not be anywhere near the same as it would have been just after your presentation.

Definitely, go ahead and take care of the big items you’re accustomed to preparing-colorful and brief PowerPoint slides, stimulating stories for illustrations, and topic mastery being among them. Yet have your checklist include the little items we have described, which will help you create a lasting, big-time positive impression.

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